Texas execution plan defies Hague order
Officials in Texas defied the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday night to affirm the scheduled execution on Tuesday of a Mexican national at the centre of a global legal row.
The state’s board of parole and corrections rejected a last-minute appeal from lawyers for José Medellín. He is now scheduled to be put to death at 6pm local time despite an order from the court at The Hague to halt his execution.
Legal experts and human rights organisations said the execution would be seen as an act of defiance of international law after a ruling from the ICJ that Medellín was denied his right to consult with Mexican embassy officials during his trial.
“US respect for international law might be further damaged by this execution,” said Brian Evans, of Amnesty International.
“We are deeply disappointed with this recommendation from the board of pardons and paroles,” said Donald Francis Donovan, of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, counsel to Medellín. “The board has failed to support the United States in fulfilling its international legal obligations. The board’s action ... risks the safety of thousands of Americans travelling and living abroad.”
Katharine Huffman, a spokesperson for Medellín’s legal team, said the case was being monitored by the international community. “The failure on the part of the US could have very serious implications for our relationship with Mexico as well as other nations,” she said.
But the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has repeatedly indicated the execution would go ahead. Texas has the most active death chamber in the US.
“The [ICJ] has no jurisdiction here in Texas. We’re concerned about following Texas law and that’s what we’re doing,” a spokesperson for Perry said.
Medellín has spent most of his adult life on death row after he was convicted in the 1993 gang rape and murders of two teenage girls.
His hopes now rest on the US Supreme Court. His lawyers had asked the board for a 240-day stay of execution to give Congress time to enact legislation that would spare him.
A Bill now before Congress would compel Texas and other states to comply with international treaties guaranteeing foreign nationals on trial the right to consult officials from their home countries.
Medellín is the first of 51 Mexicans on death row in the US whose cases have become an embarrassment for the Bush administration.
In a 2004 ruling, the ICJ ordered the courts to grant a review of their cases, and President George Bush earlier this year urged the authorities in Texas to revisit Medellín’s case. But the Supreme Court ruled that the president had overstepped his authority.
Last month the ICJ ordered the US to “take all measures necessary” to block Medellín’s execution. Huffman warned that the US could still be in conflict with the court until the cases of the other 50 Mexican nationals on death row are resolved.—guardian.co.uk